UN conference reaches agreement on radio spectrum for global flight tracking

Credit: ICAO

11 November 2015 – An agreement has been reached at the United Nations World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva on the allocation of radiofrequency spectrum to allow the use of satellites for real-time global flight tracking in civil aviation, which could help prevent a repeat of the “tragic loss” of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 in March 2014.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced today that frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz has been allocated to the aeronautical mobile-satellite service, known as “Earth-to-space,” for reception by space stations of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emissions from aircraft transmitters.

This means ADS-B signals will be extending beyond line-of-sight to facilitate reporting the position of aircraft equipped with the signal anywhere in the world, including oceanic, polar and other remote areas.

“In reaching this agreement at [the conference], ITU has responded in record time to the expectations of the global community on the major issue concerning global flight tracking,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao in a statement. “ITU will continue to make every effort to improve flight tracking for civil aviation.”

The World Radiocommunication Conference, or WRC-15, also recognized that as the standards and recommended practices for systems enabling position determination and tracking of aircraft are developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the performance criteria for satellite reception of ADS-B signals will also need to be addressed.

“The allocation of frequencies for reception of ADS-B signals from aircraft by space stations will enable real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world,” said François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. “We will continue to work with ICAO and other international organizations to enhance safety in the skies.”

ITU underlined that this agreement follows the disappearance and “tragic loss” of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 in March 2014 with 239 people on board, which spurred worldwide discussions on global flight tracking and the need for coordinated action by relevant organizations.


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